Navigating Climate Anxiety: A Personal Journey

The American Psychological Association refers to climate or eco anxiety as ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’ that stems from the perceived threats posed by environmental issues such as stronger and more frequent storms, sea-level rise, rising temperatures, biodiversity loss, and other ecological changes associated with human activity. People who experience climate anxiety, including myself, often feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of human impact on the environment and the uncertainty of the future. It’s okay to be afraid; I’m afraid too.

How do I experience it?

Growing up here in Florida the heat was way less intense, and heatwaves felt a lot rarer. Extreme weather is getting more and more common as time goes on and it’s scary. It is very hard to explain the feeling. I just notice a certain sense of helplessness and grief for what has been lost. It’s a persistent worry not just about biodiversity loss, but the inequities faced by the people who are enduring the greatest harm caused by climate change. It is easy for me to become overwhelmed at the scale of challenges our planet and its inhabitants face.

What helps me?

Knowing that I am not alone. Millions of people are also worried, which happens to be a good thing as millions of people and dollars are being put into researching the issues and creating solutions. We are lucky enough to be living in a time where there are so many opportunities for us to volunteer and support people working towards solving the climate crisis.

Two people holding a globe together.
CREDIT: siriwannapatphotos, Canva

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  • Practice Compassion
    When faced with challenging situations or emotions, it’s helpful to approach them with kindness and compassion, both towards ourselves and others. For example, it might not be practical to recycle every possible item. But you can’t beat yourself up or judge others for not doing enough. We are all doing the best we can.
  • Take Action
    I try my best to engage in positive actions that contribute to environmental sustainability. My top personal choices include reducing waste, using green cleaning products, and conserving energy at home. Check out the Green Living Toolkit for local ways to get involved and connect with experts on energy, food, waste, water, and nature.
  • Connect with Others
    Sharing my concerns and feelings about climate change with friends, family, or support groups helps a lot. Building a community can provide emotional support and foster a sense of shared responsibility. Meet local eco-enthusiasts at an upcoming Green Drinks Sarasota event!
  • Limit Exposure to Negative News
    While staying informed is crucial, it’s also essential for me to manage my exposure to distressing news. Setting boundaries to prevent feeling overwhelmed by negative information is helpful.
  • Practice Mindfulness
    Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness can help me manage anxiety by promoting a present-focused mindset and reducing stress.
  • Focus on Solutions
    Instead of dwelling solely on the problems, I channel my energy into finding and implementing solutions. Check out Paul Hawken’s new book ‘Regeneration’. It is one of my favorite books full of solutions to end the climate crisis in one generation. The forward by Jane Goodall was also extremely touching. You can also register for an upcoming “Climate Change: Fundamentals and Regenerative Solutions” class that is inspired by the book on our UF/IFAS Extension Eventbrite page.
  • Seek Professional Help
    If climate anxiety becomes overwhelming, consider talking to a mental health professional who can provide support and coping strategies.
  • Engage in Nature
    Spending time outdoors and appreciating nature can have a calming effect. It fosters a connection to the environment and can alleviate some of the emotional burdens associated with climate anxiety. Check out our UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County Eventbrite page to register for upcoming nature walks.
  • Attend Our Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop
    This year our workshop will have a focus on climate anxiety and proactive solutions to facing it. It will be a very mindful experience with rejuvenation at the forefront. Hope to see you there!

How can I be optimistic?

Locally and globally, there are many existing solutions that demonstrate the capacity for societies, ecosystems, and economies to thrive amid change and complexity. I am excited to see the innovative solutions and technologies that the future holds for all the work that remains to be done. Yes, the challenges we face are daunting, but our capacity far exceeds the challenges. We must never question that. I can see a possible future where we figure it out one day and that keeps me going.

Remember you are not alone

So, take a deep breath and understand that as long as you are doing the best you can you are already being a great enough individual and contributing to the solution.

I can’t tell you how to fix the world, but a good place to start is with caring for yourself.

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Posted: February 29, 2024


Category: Conservation
Tags: Anxiety, Climate, Pgm_Sustain


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